Divorce Trends and the Changing Context of Gender Norms in the United States: A Micro-Macro Approach

Léa Pessin, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

This article studies the association between the prevalence of egalitarian gender norms and divorce risk. Building upon recent findings, I argue that the diffusion of gender norms and marital instability are characterized by an inverse U-shaped relationship: when gender equality is low, divorce risk should heighten as egalitarian gender norms increase; it is only in a gender-equal normative context that the association should reverse. The empirical approach focuses on the United States and spans the years 1968-2011. I combine a gender ideology index from the General Social Survey together with regional divorce rates and individual marital histories from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics. Two empirical tests are carried out to test for the non-linear relationship between gender-norms and divorce, first, at the regional level, second, at the individual level. I consistently find empirical support for an inverse U-shaped association between the prevalence of egalitarian gender-norms and divorce risk.

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Presented in Session 73: Family Instability in an International Perspective